Ten Questions To Ask Your Villa Rental Agent
By Mara Solomon
How do you select an effective Villa Rental Agent? As you would selecting any skilled, specialized consultant and using your own instincts for identifying a talented, committed and professional firm. Another important yardstick is the depth and breadth of the relevant knowledge they have and are willing to share, as well as the transparency of their presentation.
An effective Villa Rental Agent will endeavor to eliminate as many potential surprises and sources of anxiety by providing as much information as possible. A professional agency will have a consistent, established way of working that is intelligible to the client.
Here are some suggestions for questions to ask Villa Rental Agents when evaluating who you want to work with:
1. Do you source the properties you are representing? If not, who does?
Many agents are sub-agents of other companies, perhaps not American-owned. Some agents source their own properties and work directly with the homeowner. Why is this relevant? You want to have reliable information, and an appropriate fee structure built into the price of your villa rental. Agents are an essential protective layer for guests, providing value-added services. Owners are often unable to really understand your needs and communicate in an effective way. Too many agents may affect the quality and quantity of the information you are getting, and the price.
2. How well do you know the area I am travelling to?
Some agents have never been to your chosen destination. Again, this is fine, but it is in your interests to know this. Why? Because no matter how stunning and well-staffed a villa, you are visiting another country and will sooner or later want to get out and explore. You ought to be able to get information about where you will be and what is nearby, easily. If a specific agent is not knowledgeable enough for you, ask to speak with someone else in the firm who has visited the area and who can answer your questions.
3. When was the last time you personally visited this property?
Conditions on the ground change all the time, no matter the country, and will affect the quality of the information your Agent is providing. Details related to the property, local services and nearby attractions may change. Roadways, transportation and signage will almost assuredly change. A good standard a comprehensive Property Re-Check at least once a year. With such a policy, the Agent demonstrates their intent to maintain an accurate and up-to-date file of all the details, from linens and mattresses, to pool conditions, electronics and nearby markets.
4. What exactly will I find at the house? Dish Soap? Clothes dryer? Air conditioning? Window screens?
Do not assume anything. A home in a different country is certain to be different than your home. And it could be different in ways that you could not anticipate. Most Italian home-owners do not install window screens because they ruin the view while many Americans may have only ever seen their view through a window screen. The property owner is likely unaware of the way you live, so your Agent must be able to evaluate the relevance and importance of life-style differences for you. Can they?
5. When I am at the house, what extra costs will I incur?
Can your agent give you a realistic idea of what extra charges you will incur? Utilities are generally charged extra because often American guests will consume a substantial quantity of electricity, heat and the like. What can your Agent tell you about these charges? What can they tell you about the staff who will be working in the Villa? Can they explain precisely when they come, what services they provide and whether or not this is an Extra? Does the staff speak English? Your Agent is adding value if they can inform you in advance, with confidence, on the myriad details related to your maximizing your enjoyment of the house.
6. What can you tell me about travelling with children? An older parent? Someone with physical limitations?
The more experienced a traveler your Agent is, the more valuable a resource they will be. Within an agency, there are likely to be people who have traveled in different capacities, so ask around to get information from those who have had experience relevant to yours. It is understandable you may not even know what questions to ask. A good Agent will know what to ask to ensure your Villa Rental is a success all around. Some of the most important questions have to do with your traveling party and your experiences traveling together. It is a good sign if your Agent wants to really understand the interests and personality of your group.
7. Are there any local holidays that might influence my ability to enjoy my chosen destination in terms of traffic, attractions being closed or special celebrations that are unique to the area?
Part of an Agent's value is their being able to give you local information about your destination - from an American's perspective. A common cultural frame of reference adds a great deal to the quality of the services the Agent is providing. Italians take their holidays seriously - often travelling to different regions, and closing up shop so they can celebrate. This may influence when you can pick up or drop off a rental car, or stock your Villa at a market. Be sure you know if such holidays will affect your plans and how.
8. What is there to do in the area? Can you provide local dining recommendations?
There may be a famous and highly rated restaurant, but if it requires a three-hour drive from your Villa, it may not be a useful recommendation. Does your Agent know where and when the local markets are? Opening and closing times of shops, supermarkets, gas stations and tourist offices may be very different from what we experience here in the U.S. A useful Agent will be able to help you anticipate how to make the most of your precious vacation days.
9. What are the roads like? Are there alternative forms of transportation? What if we want to go off in smaller groups or all together in a large group?
If you are organizing a large group for a family reunion, wedding anniversary celebration or birthday milestone can your Agent help you understand how your various guests will come and go? Will they be able to function independently or will your holiday end up being devoted to a starring role as Tour Guide? The roadways in Italy are often dirt and often winding. This is relevant for children who might have upset tummies, and for driving home late at night after enjoying the local wine. The ubiquitous "white roads' may also limit the size of vehicle that can pass and make a scooter rental impractical. Can your Agent advise you in such matters?
10. What other services are you providing?
Understand what value you are getting. Do they have their own English-speaking personnel on the ground to assist you? Can they arrange special excursions to off-the-beaten-path destinations? Can they get you an interesting guide? Help you if your luggage is lost by the airline? Also - what information are you getting before you leave and how reliable is it? A good agent will include a comprehensive resource packet with detailed and updated directions, full-scale map, phone card, and other helpful advice and assistance relevant to your destination.
Bonus Suggestion: Trust your instincts.
If the Agent is generous with their time, and is willing to share their experience, insight and information, that is a very good sign. If they listen to you and you feel a rapport, chances are the experience will be a success all around.
Final Reminder: No place on earth is like America.
The most memorable and enriching holidays come from being open-minded and interested in the place you are choosing to visit. We encourage you to delve deep into the local culture in a way meaningful to you. Renting a home is an essential first step towards enjoying another way of life in another community. Be open to the experience in all its variations, it may change your life.
About The Author
Mara Soloman is the owner of Home Base Abroad, a full service Italian villa and farmhouse rental agency. Their diverse property portfolio, Italy travel expertise and client commitment are the heart of their business. Learn more about Italy villa rentals at http://www.homebaseabroad.com.